Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Icky Politics

TPM Election Central Headline 4.1.2008

Harold Ickes Confirms that Wright is Key Topic in [Clinton Campaign] Discussions with Super-Delegates
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TPM / Veracifier Montage 4.2.2008

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All that by way of background for this take by Reed Hundt (FCC chariman from 1993-97 under Bill Clinton):

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TPM Café 4.2.2008

So Harold Ickes, wooing superdelegates for Clinton, has admitted to our TPM colleague that he tries to gain superdelegate votes for his candidate by explaining that Republicans will use unfair and factually groundless linkages between Obama and Reverend Wright to defeat Obama in the fall. Therefore, he says to the superdelegates, they should pick Clinton not Obama.

All's fair in love, war, and campaigns, which are of course about love and war. But I know Harold Ickes. I've supported Harold's causes. The Harold Ickes I know helped Jesse Jackson, tirelessly fought for civil rights again and again, constructs the proverbial big tent and gathers all Democrats under it ever four years, is a monumentally tolerant person. He is a tough and brilliant fighter; anyone would want him on their side.

But let's take a look at what this Harold Ickes is saying without automatically excusing him as just being a kitchen sink-tossing advocate.

Let's try a reversal as a way to gain perspective on what Ickes is doing. If Ickes were on the Obama team and as such he were trying to win delegates to Obama by explaining that Republicans would attack Clinton for being a woman and as such not suitable for the Presidency, Barack would fire him, the media would explode in ire against him, and he would be shunned by Democratic stalwarts.

It is a given that the Republican campaign professionals will run a morally dubious campaign this fall: they have done that every cycle since Lee Atwater. Ickes doesn't need to explain that to anyone; we get it. But Obama is not now effectively engaging in a first run of a gender-based Republican attack against the hypothetically nominated Clinton. He isn't doing that because

it is just as morally repugnant for a person to repeat someone else's bigoted slander as to engage in that slander himself or herself. [Obama] wouldn't do it because the attribution of gender or race bias to others causes everyone to believe the worst of everyone else. The more people believe others are bigots, the more hate and fear they feel themselves, and the less able any President is to bring about real system-changing reform.
Yet Ickes and presumably others on the Clinton side are talking freely, we are told, about the inherent bigotry of the American people. Ickes is describing, presumably in pungent detail, the racist advertising he imagines that the Republicans will run this fall. By doing so, Ickes is in effect doing that advertising now, to his carefully selected and critically important audience. He is stepping from prediction to performance -- from outlining what the Republicans will do to actually doing it himself now. It makes little practical difference that he puts the slander in someone else's mouth; indeed, he is the first to say it, since McCain has not yet authorized such campaigning.

Ickes' words about race are not the conversation about the topic that Obama asked us to engage in.
We are meant to try to understand the hatred of others, not stipulate to its existence and then flee from its fearful power into the ranks of another candidate.
We should talk about bigotry as something we can collectively talk ourselves out of. That at least is the definition of being Democratic that we Democrats want to espouse. It is that definition, we hope, that is drawing more and more Americans to call themselves Democrats. It's a mug's game to assume we Americans cannot change for the better. It's a loser's Democratic Party that assumes that November will be a referendum on bigotry or that if it were, tolerance would lose. If that is Ickes' assumption, then he needs a dose of hope for the future. And he needs to remember that his own candidate too deserves to be defined by deeds and character, and not by the stereotypes of haters.

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& icky, icky TPM/Veracifier 5.26.2008 (re HRC/RFK thing ...)

& Eugene Robinson WaPo 5.27.2008

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